Is Sustainability On Your Agenda?

Teledyne CIO Corey Hirsch discusses sustainability and how he has implemented various environmental measures, reducing costs and the company's carbon footprint.

Corey Hirsch

Hirsch also discussed some of the challenges of launching a sustainability program inside a company that doesn't have sustainability as a chief part of the corporate agenda. "It is contextual," says Hirsch. "If the CEO's team is on board, then it's easier. Getting internal support can be difficult if it does not align to managers' KPI list. Many efforts end up being large projects. Implementing RoHS, for example, may require man-years of effort along with ongoing monitoring once the project is finished. Looking at ROI, if it's cash neutral, most companies would do it. There is no formula for 'goodness.' There are relatively few Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) in the world. Otherwise, sustainability ownership should sit with the CEO or possibly the CIO. In some companies, like HP, sustainability is integral to the business."

Hirsch says his sustainability efforts "are mostly opportunistic in nature. I would look at the full lifecycle using the triple bottom line principles, where projects address People (employees, shareholders and the communities in which the firm does business), Profit (the company's balance sheet and income statement), and Planet (environmental considerations). I started by looking for the low-hanging fruit using the triple bottom line principles."

One of Hirsch's goals was to cut power waste in half. "You have to be careful with targets like this; for example, if the company is growing it could be a confusing measurement." As part of this energy-savings program, Hirsch had posters placed throughout the office and factory areas encouraging "Waste Less," as opposed to "Use Less," which might be confusing. To further encourage people to reduce their waste, Hirsch allocated 25 percent of the savings to the employee recreation committee. A second initiative was to put glass covers on the office thermostats to deter employees from changing the temperature in open air spaces served by more than one HVAC unit. Another major initiative involved replacing a liquid nitrogen tank in the back parking lot, which in itself caused no local carbon footprint. However, the liquid nitrogen tank was frequently filled by delivery trucks, which had a high carbon footprint. This system was replaced with a nitrogen-collector with a small carbon footprint, but which requires no truck deliveries, thereby reducing the system's total carbon footprint.

Other items on Hirsch's sustainability agenda include burying the power lines to the office and factory. While expensive in the short term, it is ultimately less expensive when one considers the cost of power outages. Hirsch also plans to offer free electric car charging to employees, which helps with talent retention and provides positive publicity, and deploy solar panels on company roofs.

Hirsch is impressed with how seriously some companies and industries take sustainability. For example, some of the big technology companies–Google, HP (mentioned previously), Microsoft and Amazon–are heavily committed to sustainability. Also, CIOs in the hospitality and restaurant businesses in Europe are very focused on sustainability, as are certain government agencies, such as the New York City Housing Authority. Hirsch wishes more organizations would follow these entities' lead and model their environmentally beneficial behavior.

About the Author

Pat O'Connell is the founder and president of The Conall Group, a consulting and research firm, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University in its Executive Masters of Science In Technology Management Program. Prior to starting The Conall Group, he worked for several years at three of the major global financial services companies, attaining the role of regional CIO of the equity division in one of the firms.

You can read his previous CIO Insight article, "Making a Successful CIO Transition," by clicking here.

This article was originally published on 12-11-2013
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